The standard vacation policy is dying, and the changes have been so gradual and normalized that many employees haven’t even noticed.
The problem is two-fold: more than 75 percent of workers receive vacation time, but roughly 52 percent didn’t use all of their vacation days. For those that did use some or all of their vacation time, 56 percent of workers have at least one contact with work when they’re supposed to be off the clock.
Many business leaders are quick to point the finger at the worker for not taking advantage of the paid vacation policy or working on their own time. However, the outcome most certainly affects the culture and performance of the workplace, and good business leadership means recognizing when a vacation policy is no longer meeting the needs of workers or the company.
Paid Vacations: Past and Present
Vacation should be spent recharging, not working remotely.
Traditionally, taking a paid vacation meant leaving the workplace while someone else covered your duties. You were paid as though you were at the office or on the assembly line, but didn’t have any work obligations while you were gone. You could take time off when you wanted without worrying how your duties would be handled.
Telling a customer or manager you were going on vacation was a completely acceptable reason for delaying a response or pushing back a deadline. You were unreachable, and others were willing to put their needs on hold until you returned.
Fast forward to today’s era of being ever-connected, and the idea of paid vacations as they once were is dissolving.
Workers are scrambling to take care of projects and details before going on vacation while companies are wondering how to get by without a key person. Employees come back to all the work they missed in addition to their normal duties. Managers and clients alike may expect to stay in touch by email or text.
What’s more, employees are having a harder time taking their vacations when they want. The end of summer is a popular vacation period, particularly for families trying to squeeze in one final trip before school starts. If companies are unable to cover business needs, employees are either forced to work remotely or forgo their plans altogether.
In essence, vacation for many employees has essentially become comp time, where workers have already done the work required of them in exchange for time off later.
Vacations Should Be a Priority
Employees have a life outside of work and need to enjoy it.
Vacations are essential to healthy workplace culture and should be treated as a priority, not a perk. Studies show that taking time off boosts productivity and has a positive effect on combating stress and promoting better health.
When workers aren’t taking vacations, these benefits aren’t achievable. Whether employees travel, spend time on a boat, or visit family, vacation energize employees.
It’s no secret that vacations create hardships for companies, but business leadership teams should recognize that having burned out, unproductive workers is even more detrimental.
Workers should be able to break free from the office and use their time off to recuperate so they can come back to work recharged and ready to contribute. More importantly, they should feel like they can do so without the assumed repercussions of extra work and the guilt that comes with leaving their employers in the lurch.